The media industry relaunch

The digital revolution makes predicting the future of the media a tough call: nevertheless, here are a few pointers.

To mark the 10-year anniversary of both Communication Director magazine and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), we've turned to the heads of the EACD Working Groups – groups that meet regularly to discuss a specific topic or industry, from Brand Leadership to Finance and Insurance – to describe the changes that have occurred in their area of expertise over the past 10 years.

Oliver Hergesell, head of the EACD's Future of Media Working Group, explains how the digitsation of media has upturned the working life of communications professionals.

On a recent flight to New York, I saw someone with a hard copy of the Financial Times entering the plane. A colleague looked at him, looked at the paper – and asked him whether his tablet was broken.

This guy was making a fair point. Today it is so easy to use media anywhere – no cumbersome papers, no heavy magazines, no TV sets: all is at hand, wherever and whenever wanted.

If you’ve ever wanted to relaunch an entire industry, then that’s what’s happening to media due to digitisation. And it has happened in just a few years. Think back not more than 10 years: in 2006, Facebook opened up to the public, YouTube was a few months old and the I-Phone had not yet hit the markets. Since then, everything has changed: business models, work styles and the role of consumers. Social media is a new, powerful facilitator, a never-resting critic - and sometimes a spreader of hate.

Everyone is a communicator now. Even video content can be created and published without investment or technological knowledge. Media is available anytime, everywhere, on any device. In addition, big data brings everything to hand: where we are, what we think, what we want. We are what we search for.

"We are what we search for."

Ten years ago, sales of PCs were still growing. Films were watched via DVD players. The digital world was all about homepages – everyone wanted to have one: my house, my car, my homepage. Today, as we know, it’s all about mobile.  

The newspaper industry is fighting for survival. Circulations have declined sharply and continue to decline. So has advertising revenues. Digital news has grown both in reach and advertising but for the foreseeable future it will be unable to offset the decline of print. Newspapers and magazines – once core partners for PR – no longer have the power they once had. Losing distribution and revenues, published media has also lost competence, relevance and trust.

The breathtaking rise of digital has created a wide range of new media, from offshoots of traditional media brands to digital-only professional media, to user generated content. From websites and apps to mailings, from independent journalism and paid content to editorials owned by corporations.

Television, on the other hand, despite passionate doomsday-sayings, stands firm. It’s in its golden age for viewing numbers, content quality and profits. TV’s overall popularity has even increased due to ubiquitous availability. But even TV feels the pressure of increased competition and changing consumer habits.

Consumers have the power, more than ever before. They have more choice and they spend less money. The timeline for successful transformation is getting shorter.

The media shock is shaking up communicators’ work life, as well. As communication processes speed up, wider transparency is enforced. Loss of control is something corporations need to deal with whether they like it or not. There is more negativity and even aggression. There’s no public life without being hated every once in a while. If you haven’t experienced your own shitstorm, you aren’t relevant. 

"The media shock is shaking up communicators’ work life, as well."

Data is a driving force for future developments. There is so much information available and it tells such a lot – if you have the means to get them and if you can read it.

Experience shows that, unless you have a crystal ball - and most of us don’t – it can be difficult to predict the future. Looking at the massive changes and ever developing technologies, it is now even harder than usual.

One thing is sure, though. In the future, people will make the difference. Authenticity, flexibility and focus seem to be highly relevant qualities for the next 10 years. And, even if I love the smell of fresh newspapers, I am not sure how many people will carry dailies around in 2026.

This year, the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) and Communication Director are celebrating their joint 10 year anniversary. To find out more about EACD Working Groups, visit the website here.

Image: Dreamstime

Oliver Herrgesell

Oliver Herrgesell is senior vice president communications, Turner. He is in charge of international communications. Until 2012 he was responsible for communications, public affairs and marketing for RTL Group; before joining the group in Luxembourg in February 2006, he served for six years as deputy head of corporate communications at Europe's leading media company Bertelsmann. Prior to that, he worked in Austria and Germany as a journalist for television broadcasters (ORF, Premiere/Sky Deutschland), magazines (Wiener, Tempo, Stern) and newspapers (Die Woche, Berliner Zeitung). In addition, Herrgesell is member of the board, Save the Children in Germany since January 2010.